2021-04-17 01:45:02

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ENGLISH And Im told she has a nice little fortune of her own, continued Mrs Goodford. Trust a Keeling for that. Ah, dear me, yes: there are some that go up in the world and some that go down, and I never heard that the Keelings were among those that go down.A certain measure of relief came to poor Alice at this moment, for she observed that everybody had finished the meat-course, and she and Hugh (who had at present escaped the lash of his grandmothers tongue) and John hastily got up and began changing their elders plates, and removing dishes. This was the custom of Sunday lunch at Mrs Keelings, and a Sabbatarian design of saving the servants trouble lay at the back of it. The detail of which it took no account was that it gave Hugh and Alice and John three times as much trouble as it would have given the servants, for they made endless collisions with each other as they went round the table; two of them simultaneously tried to drag the roast beef away in opposite directions, and the gravy spoon, tipped up by Johns elbow, careered through the air with a comet-tail of congealed meat-juice behind it. Ominous sounds of side-slip from heaped plates and knives came from the dinner wagon, where the used china was piled, and some five minutes of arduous work, filled with bumpings and crashings and occasional spurts of suppressed laughter from John, who, like a true wit, was delighted with his own swift and disconcerting reply to his Granny, were needful to effect the changes required for the discussion of plum tart and that strange form of refreshment known as{23} cold shape. During these resonant minutes further conversation between the elders was impossible, but Mrs Goodford was not wasting her time, but saving up, storing her forces, reviewing her future topics.

I shall get it done well before Christmas, whispered Alice.It was this undoubtedly which had occurred in the domestic history of Keelings house. He had been infatuated with Emmelines prettiness at a time when as a young man of sternly moral principles and strong physical needs, the only possible course was to take a wife, while Emmeline, to tell the truth, had no voice in the matter at all. Certainly she had liked him, but of love in any ardent, compelling sense, she had never, in the forty-seven years of her existence, shown the smallest symptom in any direction whatever, and it was not likely that she was going to develop the malady now. She had supposed (and her mother quite certainly had supposed too) that she was going to marry somebody sometime, and when this strong and splendidly handsome young man insisted that she was going to marry him, she had really done little more than conclude that he must be right, especially when her mother agreed with him. Events had proved that as far as her part of the matter was concerned, she had{36} acted extremely wisely, for, since anything which might ever so indulgently be classed under the broad heading of romance, was foreign to her nature, she had secured the highest prize that life conceivably held for her in enjoying years of complete and bovine content. When she wanted a thing very much indeed, such as driving home after church on Sunday morning instead of walking, she generally got it, and probably the acutest of her trials were when John had the measles, or her husband and mother worried each other. But being almost devoid of imagination she had never thought that John was going to die of the measles or that her husband was going to cut off his annual Christmas present to her mother. Things as uncomfortable as that never really came near her; she seemed to be as little liable to either sorrow or joy as if when a baby she had been inoculated with some spiritual serum that rendered her permanently immune. She was fond of her children, her card-bearing crocodile in the hall, her husband, her comfort, and she quite looked forward to being Lady Mayoress next year. There would always be sufficient strawberries and iced coffee at her garden parties; her husband need not be under any apprehension that she would not have proper provision made. Dreadful scenes had occurred this year, when Mrs Alington gave her last garden-party, and two of her guests had been seen almost pulling the last strawberry in half.{37}

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She had the satisfactionand that made her step the more briskly and gave the sunshine this mysterious power of exhilarationof knowing that she was serving and supplying. She loved the knowledge that never had Keelings typewriting been done for him so flawlessly, that never had the details of his business, such as came{195} within her ken, been so unerringly recorded. He might ask for the reference to the minutest point in a month-old letter, and she could always reinforce his deficient memory of it, and turn up the letter itself for confirmation of her knowledge. When days of overwhelming work had occurred, and he had suggested getting in a second typewriter to assist her, she had always, with a mixture of pride in her own efficiency, and of jealousy of a helping hand, proved herself capable of tackling any task that might be set her. Probably she could not have done it for any one else, but she could do it for him. It was easier, so she told herself, to do his work herself, than to instruct anybody else what to do. She allowed herself just that shade of self-deception, knowing all the time that there were plenty of routine letters that any one else could have done as well as she. But she did not want anybody else to do them.Very well. I engage you from to-day. There is a good deal to do this morning. If you are ready we will begin at once.

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